Lawmaker tables bills, resolution against forced conversions, child marriages

Lawmakers appealed to all fellow parliamentarians to support their efforts for the betterment of society

Our Correspondent March 26, 2019
National Assembly of Pakistan. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: Prominent Hindu lawmaker Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani has tabled two bills and one resolution in the National Assembly against forced conversions, child marriages and protection of minorities throughout the country.

Condemning the recent abduction of two Hindu sisters named Reena and Raveena, he submitted a five-point resolution, which was supported by minority parliamentarians from various political parties, including Lal Malhi and Shunila Ruth from Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), Dr Darshan from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Ramesh Lal from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Dr Ramesh, in the bill titled "the Child Marriage Restraint Act (Amendment 2019" seek to make provisions for the right of freedom of marriage and ban on child marriages.

Forced Marriage means a marriage where one or both parties have not given their consent and is prohibited under Section 498B of Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), he described in the bill.

The lawmaker who is also the patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, emphasized in the bill titled "The Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act 2019" that no person shall be deemed to have changed their religion until they attain the age of 18 years.

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He further stated that any person who forcefully converts another person shall be liable to punishment and pay a fine to the victim.

"Whoever performs, conducts, directs, brings about or in any way facilitates a marriage having knowledge that either or both parties are victim of forced conversion, shall be liable to imprisonment of either description for minimum three years and a fine to be paid to the victim," the draft said.

It further emphasized that this shall also include any person who have provided logistic support and any other essential services for such forced marriage ceremony. He also elaborated the role of government for curbing such social crimes.

Dr Ramesh in his resolution also demanded to take strict action against culprits including controversial religious figures such as Mian Mithu Bharchoondi and Pir Ayub Jan Sirhindi for their alleged role in forced conversions.

He asked the parliament to seek an answer from such elements why only young girls were being converted and not the men and aged women?

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"All those who are preaching hate under the cover of religion must be dealt like banned religious organizations," the resolution stated.

Talking to media outside the Parliament, Dr Ramesh said, unfortunately, the practice of child marriage was common across the country particularly in poor areas.

He said that the amendment is intended to serve as a deterrent and to remove the existing gender inequality in age.

The lawmaker appealed to all fellow parliamentarians to support his efforts for the betterment of society.

He said that ensuring a peaceful society is the responsibility of all Pakistanis and thus, regardless of minority or majority, everyone must promote tolerance, interfaith harmony and protection of minorities' rights, according to the vision of Quaid e Azam.

He said that now it was a test of all political parties to implement the vision of Quaid-e-Azam in letter and spirit.

Time will tell who is serious to transform our beloved country into a peaceful, prosperous and tolerant Pakistan and who is exploiting the religious sentiments of innocent people for personal gains, he remarked.

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